Edgartown voters are invited to a midsummer special town meeting to tie up some loose financial ends for the Edgartown School construction project.
Less than two months shy of completion, the $16 million school construction project required voters to modify the dollar authorization of the long-term bond. Voters must add an additional $650,000 to the $16.1 million authorization granted at annual town meeting in the spring of 2000. The additional money is needed to cover cost increases incurred between voter approval of the spending in 2000 and the actual granting of the bid a year later. The state had committed to covering the additional $650,000 as part of its 56 per cent share of the total project - putting no more financial burden on the town than they accepted in 2000.
"It's not going to cost us any more, we just have to go through this process," said Fred B. Morgan, a member of the school building committee.
Town officials knew of the town's added commitment in the spring of 2001 - allowing them to rebid the project after estimates came in higher than expected the previous year. The August special town meeting vote is needed to revise the bonding amount to match the bid the town accepted from J&J Contractors of Lowell in 2001.
"We've spent most of the money. We're at the end of the project," said Larry Mercier, a member of the school building committee.
The middle school wing was completed during the school year - the end phase of the two-year project. Elementary students moved into their new classrooms in the fall of 2002.
All that remains, school building committee members said, is an awning at the entrance, a punch list and the paving of the rerouted Robinson Road. The siting of the new school building cut through the middle of Robinson Road, forcing officials to route the road's exit a few hundred feet north along West Tisbury road, just to the left of the old brick school building.
The entire project, already a month behind schedule, is expected to be completed well before the start of school this fall - avoiding a delay that last year forced the school's youngest students to attend the first few days of class in remote sites scattered downtown.
But the start date of state monetary contribution is the looming question mark for town officials these days.
"The state guarantees every town and city that they'll help pay for the school building, but they don't guarantee when they'll start paying," said Mr. Mercier.
Both the Massachusetts legislature and the governor put school construction contributions on the chopping block this year as they struggled with the budget.
"We all hope this is a temporary stoppage. We hope that once state revenues start picking up again, officials will feel comfortable resuming this," said Jeff Wulfson, associate commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education.
Over the past decade, the state funneled an average of $30 million a year into town reimbursement for school construction. Last year, the commitment dropped to $20 million. This year, neither the legislature or the governor allocated any money for school construction projects.
Edgartown is number 53 on one of two lists of towns awaiting reimbursement. The state had been sending yearly contributions to about 20 new school projects each year. State officials cannot even speculate as to when Edgartown will rise to the top of the list.
"We always have anxiety when we deal with the state. In this instance, it could be four or five years before we'll start seeing any money," said Mr. Morgan.
The town has been issuing temporary bonds for two years. Municipalities are allowed to issue temporary bonds for seven years before they must begin paying on the principal.
Edgartown officials, after the special town meeting vote, will be authorized to issue a long-term bond. Town administrator Peter O. Bettencourt said the town may begin paying principal and interest before the state's share arrives. Towns are expected to issue the full amount of the bond, using the state contributions to help meet bond payments.
Mr. Mercier estimates the median-priced property owner - who owns a $350,000 home - will pay just over $1,000 in additional taxes over 20 years for the new school building. That tax burden will not change, Mr. Mercier said, due to the requested increase in the total bond amount.
The special town meeting will take place on Tuesday, August 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Old Whaling Church.